Lending a hay-filled hand

By Jamie Salter

Kialla's Frank Fitzpatrick has travelled into bushfire regions for the past six months to deliver donated hay to farmers in need.

Mr Fitzpatrick had tears in his eyes when he described the generosity he had witnessed from the regional community.

“I'm putting a bit back in; I got a lot of money out of the farmers over the years and they need it, so it's just like a donation to me,” he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick has had a few jobs in his life, as a farming contractor, bus owner and driver, as well as being a volunteer firefighter in Shepparton for nearly 40 years.

Too old for firefighting, but soon to turn 80 years young, Mr Fitzpatrick has found a way to continue to support bushfire victims.

He is driving trucks to deliver hay to farmers for the Lions Club project, Need for Feed.

So far, he has travelled to Moree, Coonabarabran, Mandurang, Tullamore, Kempsey, Maxwell, Glen Innes, Gelantipy and Corryong.

“It takes four days to do a long trip; we don't travel at night, we stop and have some tea and then keep going in the morning,” he said.

“Most of the people do the same trips every time, so you catch up and have a bit of a chat.”

He said he enjoyed the drives to the drop-off points, as it gave him the chance to see new sections of the countryside.

Mr Fitzpatrick is sometimes joined by a couple of young travel companions, his great-grandsons Tyron, 11, and Zacchaeus, 7. Tyron has hit the road four times in the past 12 months, while Zacchaeus had his first hay run two weeks ago, into Gelantipy in East Gippsland.

“There were 25 trucks of hay in the convoy,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“We had police and two fire trucks escorting us in, and then we had a couple of CFA utes.

“Because we went through the day after the fires did, the trees were still burning.”